It was a gathering of some of the nation’s top C&U dining experts when Ken Toong’s University of Massachusetts hosted the 21st Chef Culinary Conference. Nearly 400 foodservice professionals gathered to catch a glimpse of the strategies of the most successful operations and their menus. If you couldn’t make this year’s conference here are some highlights:
Fruits & Veggies Are Growing!
That’s right. You don’t have to beg Gen Z’s to eat their vegetables. According to Garett DiStefano, executive director of residential dining at UMass, 80% of his students want to taste more fruits and vegetables in ever daypart.
Students Want To Connect With Their Food
At UMass, surveys found connections between a greater emphasis on world flavors, sustainability, health and community. Look to connect with local farmers and suppliers who can support a message on sustainability, family farmers. Remember to introduce world flavors or ingredients with a familiar twist, like sriracha mayo.
Click here to see our simple yet spicy recipe for Sriracha Ketchup Meatballs.
Take A Deeper Dive Into Dipping Sauces
Vegetable-centric meals can be challenged by a lack of flavor. Several speakers at the conference recommend a greater reliance on dipping sauces as a way to impart flavor as a solution. Sauce and condiment stations for student experimentation of flavors can be a solution. Dipping sauce cups can by an answer for grab and go items.
Red Gold Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies can add flavor to your dipping sauces. Click here to learn how to make a flavorful Green Chilies Queso Dip.
Bowl Them Over
“The bowl is going to be the standard,” said Mark Bittman a sustainability expert told those attending the conference. Leveraging ethnic orientations from Asian, Middle Eastern or Hispanic, Bittman says typical bowls should contain a cooked vegetable or grain, some form of protein and sauce. That goes for every daypart.
Food As Medicine
Use of super foods as ingredients and explaining their benefits are of extreme interest by students. The Gen Z consumer has a much more defined sense of food beyond flavor than any other in history. Focus on super foods and explain their benefits along the way.
Summing It Up
Burgers, pizza and chicken tenders still have their place as menu mainstays in C&U dining. Yet, a truly different student is now enrolled at your school. A vegetable-centric menu with healthy flavors to compliment them was this year’s conference big takeaway.